Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: N-S

9 5 4
K 7 4
A K Q J 8
K 7
West East
A 7 Q J 8 3
Q J 8 5 3 10 6 2
7 6 4 10 2
8 6 5 10 9 4 2
K 10 6 2
A 9
9 5 3
A Q J 3


South West North East
1 1 2 Pass
3 NT Pass 6 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: 7

“Whether I shall complete what is here started,

Whether I shall attain my own height, to justify these, yet unfinished …

Depends, rich persons, upon you.”

— Walt Whitman

The bidding in today’s deal left a lot to be desired. To start with, West produced a rather flimsy overcall, then South jumped to three no-trump, promising a suitable minimum.


North thought (correctly, I believe) that South had real extras and so landed his partnership in a slam that was not overly blessed with high cards. Not that slam was hopeless — far from it — but it does seem to hinge on a spade finesse which, as you can see, will not succeed.


However, watch what happened. West sensibly led a diamond rather than a heart, and declarer cashed five rounds of diamonds, pitching two spades from hand. Then he took the four club winners, and as the last one was led out, he had two cards in each major in hand, while dummy had three hearts and two spades and had yet to discard.


West correctly decided he needed to keep the spade ace guarded, so came down to two hearts only, dummy threw a spade, and East, needing to keep three hearts to protect against dummy’s long heart, threw a spade honor.


Declarer triumphantly cashed the ace and king of hearts, then led a spade to the queen, king and ace. At trick 13, West had to play his spade, and declarer’s 10 took the trick.


This position is referred to as a vise squeeze. As the jaws close, East is forced to unguard spades, and subsequently West has to give the lead back to declarer.

ANSWER: You have just enough values to go to game. Standard practice is to use the same conventional continuations over the delayed two-no-trump bid as you would over an opening two no-trump. Since a response of three clubs to two no-trump would be Stayman, bid three clubs as Stayman here.


South Holds:

Q J 8 3
10 6 2
10 2
10 9 4 2


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 Pass 2 NT Pass


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


DarinTMay 8th, 2010 at 11:09 pm

For this squeeze to operate, declarer needs to guess the opponents’ distributions. If you exchange West’s S7 and East’s HT you can have the same discards and declarer needs to guess to play a low spade in the four card end position. In this case East’s last discard is key. East needs to discard an honor “unnecessarily” to give the illusion that he has been squeezed and give declarer a losing option. But will East be up to that play?

David WarheitMay 9th, 2010 at 6:46 am

Good point, Darin, but if West had the hand you postulate, surely he would have overcalled 2H, so I think South should work it out, although the defense would have made it as tough as possible.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Hi Darin T and David, (If Dick Tracy, the bridge detective, would also have written, I could answer in 3D) UGH!

And speaking of bridge detectives, on this type of hand, all advantages, except defensive deception, accrue to declarer. David points out the dog that didn’t bark, that since with another heart, the ten, West would have opted to preempt 2 hearts (weak jump overcall) instead of overcalling only 1 heart. How about West’s choice of opening lead, dummy’s suit, instead of what most players would prefer the Queen from Queen, Jack, Ten in hearts? From declarer’s standpoint, he will control the tempo and by doing so, he will play at a pace favorable to him, in this case rapid, in order to make it more difficult for less than world class experts to be able to think fast enough to legally deceive.

My suggestion to the defense is that a legal pause can be made, maybe announced as such, but usually very early in the hand, in order to correlate the bidding and then be prepared to play the rest of the hand in relatively quick tempo, trying to create a false impression as to where the defensive ducats are located. The most important caveat to be practiced by the defense, is that quite often both defenders should discard in a less telling order, possibly in this case for West to bare his ace of spades early, keeping one more heart than would usually be kept.

Once West has made his unfortunate overcall (bad on this hand, but, to me, only tough luck, not poor bridge) there would be little he could do, unless the declarer was not up to correlating West’s overcall to his overall discarding.

One fact to always remember through your hoped for years of playing top level bridge, the declarer, by the mere fact that he is looking at his entire 26 cards of offensive fire power while the defense has to piece their defensive assets together by the bidding and the way declarer goes about his play almost always has a significant advantage which can only be reduced, but not eliminated, by the defensive mental concentration, high-level experience and their individual fast wit.

Another general truism would be for the defense to NEVER signal truthfully on such a hand as is today. However, when top players collide, this fact is already known and nothing is expected except the defensive bidding (or lack of it), the choice of opening lead, and the accompaning tempo.

Summing up, once West has made his overcall (giving the location of the ace of spades away), together with his lack of the queen of hearts lead makes his partnership a sitting duck for an experienced declarer.

Finally from the declarer’s point of view, act on the hard evidence presented, not on illusions, after the fact created by wily defenders. All of the above are significant challenges, many of which, and in very tough competition, your side will lose, but, after all, that is what you are there for and anything different should be disappointing.

It is always exhilarating to win a battle of wits, but ever more so when your opponent is of high class!